Out of Bounds
This adventure was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 2007, and appeared in this form in the April/May 2015 issue
The PCs are approached by a group of scientists who urgently need to transport some experimental equipment to a nearby system. It consists of several trunk-sized cases (which they will open if asked—all contain recognisable scientific equipment and tools) and one large sealed container. The container has its own power source and, behind an obvious locked panel (which the team leader will open if they ask to look), a display showing a set of complex readouts (the container and display are standard equipment, but the characters can make no sense of the readouts). This apparently contains delicate samples in powered containment. The have all the right credentials and a letter of reference from a senior regional noble, who unfortunately isn’t available to help them out (the starport authorities can verify they are who they say they are). These people are clearly above-board. En-route cargo access is needed. They are offering a good sum (whatever seems reasonable for the campaign) to take the equipment and some (or all if there is room on the ship) of the team to their destination. If pressed, they will increase it to a large sum, as they cannot otherwise find a regular shipper who can accommodate them in time.
Possible Directions to Take This Scenario:
- All is as represented. The equipment is harmless. The trip passes without incident. The team think they are on to something groundbreaking and will talk about it happily, if incomprehensibly (none of the PCs have enough background in the applicable sciences to follow the explanations). The PCs get a science lesson while the tension builds and they wait for something to go wrong.
- As above, but the scientists are very reticent and will not talk about the cargo unless pressed. They check the cargo at regular intervals and look anxious throughout the jump. Once the scientists start talking, it turns out that they think they have a region of ‘space’ in the main container where the laws of physics are ‘different’, which may be highly dangerous if mishandled. Point out that trying to jettison the cargo would constitute mishandling if necessary.
- As 2 above, but when they get to their destination, the starport authorities will not let them land if they find out what they are carrying. Resolve this as necessary.
- Apparently as 2 above, except one of the team will be very garrulous once the news is out and will talk to the characters at every opportunity (‘It’s a relief to be able to talk, actually’). They will try to reassure the characters whilst actually making the situation sound worse and worse. The readouts start worrying the team more and more, then, as soon as the ship docks, the scientists abandon ship onto the dock. The players are left to deal with the cargo, which will sound an alarm, start venting some kind of coolant, then suddenly pop open to reveal a large display showing the host of the local equivalent of ‘Candid Camera’. The team have filmed everything from the first approach and will edit it to make the most amusing program (read: make the PCs look as bad as possible). The contract for the trip included a release in the (very small) print.
- As 2 above, except that something happens en route and the ship experiences 6D6 hours of altered physics. Work out the real side effects of your favourite SF handwave and inflict them on the PCs. Fatal effects should be localised to some parts of the ship so the players can see the results without experiencing them and/or inflict them on handy NPCs (maybe some of the science team). After a few hours the effect breaks down and normality restores itself.
- As 5 above, except the effect is permanent and propagates across the campaign area at whatever speed seems dramatically appropriate. Explain to the players how the universe now works—or let them work it out for themselves.